Garmin Montana 700 Review Garmin Instinct Solar Review

Garmin Instinct Solar Review – Ultra Runner with Solar Power

  • Vastly extended battery life through solar charging
  • Rugged GPS watch is water-rated to 100 meters and constructed to U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock and water resistance
  • Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • Track your activities for running, biking, swimming, strength and more
  • Help understand your health and wellness better with all-day health monitoring and Pulse Ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition)
  • Monitor how your body uses energy by tracking heart rate, stress and sleep estimates with Body Battery energy monitoring
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Garmin Instinct Solar review – Garmin introduced a new GPS smartwatch as part of the DO WHAT YOU LOVE. LONGER solar offensive.

The Instinct Solar – a lifestyle sports watch for numerous sports including trendy activities such as trail running and SUP – comes with a much better battery life compared to the first generation. Thanks to solar charging, the already good battery life can be improved once again.

But that is not all. Compared to the previous Instinct without solar, the following features are added:

  • Power Manager to control the energy consumption
  • Expedition mode for week-long activities
  • Pulse Ox measurement to determine the oxygen saturation of the blood
  • Heart rate measurement under water
  • Body Battery energy levels (a Firstbeat metric)

In addition, compared to the existing Instinct, a lot has been done in terms of technology: the solar charging module means a change from chemically reinforced watch glass to Corning Gorilla glass, the heart rate sensor is of the latest generation, the GPS chip is now from Sony (*).

(*) Source: dcrainmaker.com

Further innovations concern the variety of models. In addition to a standard solar version, there are tactical, camo and surf editions with special color combinations and other specific functions.

Garmin Instinct Solar in the mountains (the solar module around the display can be easily recognized by its brownish-grey color)

Garmin Instinct Solar Review – Solar Charging & Battery Life

The so-called "Power Glass" solar charging lens is glued between the glass and the display. The glass used is a DX-treated Corning Gorilla glass, which promises special scratch resistance, the avoidance of fingerprints and increased anti-reflection properties.

The solar module is divided into two areas: An outer ring around the display utilizes solar energy with maximum efficiency, while the entire display surface with semi-transparent photovoltaic technology helps to recharge the battery.

When viewed from the side, the solar module arranged around the display stands out from the rest by means of its dark brown / gray color, e.g. from the black area with the "Garmin" imprint (illustration above).

Battery life specified by Garmin:

Battery Life Instinct Solar

  • Smartwatch: Up to 24 days/54 days with solar*
  • Battery Saver Watch Mode: Up to 56 days/Unlimited with solar*
  • GPS: Up to 30 hours/38 hours with solar**
  • Max Battery GPS Mode: Up to 70 hours/145 hours with solar**
  • Expedition GPS Activity: Up to 28 days/68 days with solar*

*Solar charging, assuming all-day wear with 3 hours per day outside in 50,000 lux conditions
**Solar charging, assuming use in 50,000 lux conditions

Source: Garmin

Battery Life Instinct Solar

  • Smartwatch mode: Up to 14 days
  • GPS mode: Up to 16 hours
  • UltraTrac mode: Up to 40 hours

The improved runtimes of the Instinct Solar compared to the existing Instinct – e.g. in GPS mode from 16 hours to 30 hours – are probably based on a new energy-saving technology, including the above mentioned Sony GPS chip.

One thing has also changed: the charging time. Plugged into the same charger, the Instinct Solar needs about two hours, the Instinct only needs about one hour.

Garmin does not give any information about the battery capacity of the Instinct Solar, but in the WWW you can find values of 178 mAh.

The additional times that can be reached by solar charging sound sensational – Garmin assumes an illuminance of 50.000 Lux (lx).

How is an illuminance of 50.000 Lux to be classified?

According to Wikipedia, 90,000 lx on a clear summer day and 20,000 lx on a clear winter day are possible. On an overcast sky, however, 19,000 lx or 6,000 lx (all values: at noon & in Central Europe). For an office/room lighting 500 lx are given.

The runtime increases specified by Garmin can therefore only be achieved under ideal conditions and with many outdoor hours: In great sunny weather, if possible in summer, when doing sports, sunbathing, working outside, with an ideal alignment of the watch to the sun and no shading of the solar panel by the body.

Charging the battery of the Instinct Solar by sun!

In order to try out charging the Instinct Solar by sunlight at all, I placed the watch on a balcony, which is flooded with sunshine from noon on – in August under midsummer conditions (image on the right, display of the solar intensity in the Garmin Connect app).

The remaining running time was 15 hours.

After sunbathing 5 times – the watch was in smartwatch mode – the charge indicator already showed 4 days (20%).

This indicates: Under ideal conditions, the battery of the Instinct Solar is actually being strongly charged. In contrast to a fenix 6 Pro Solar, which behaves quite differently according to my first test results.

Garmin Connect App – solar intensity

What practical battery life values can be achieved?

Due to the numerous setting options and different use cases, it is difficult to make any statements. In general, however, I have had good experience with the information provided by Garmin, so these can be used as reference values.

An example from the test period:

Conditions: worn 24/7, mix of office / sports / mountains / beach (all leisure activities rather in the cool morning/evening hours), active smartphone connection, pulse Ox on, fitness tracker on, no energy saving mode, otherwise all default settings, more than 11 hours GPS on.

Under these conditions the Instinct Solar lasted for almost exactly 12 days. A great value, which can be increased by appropriate settings.

The relatively small, monochrome MIP display contributes to the great battery life – especially compared to the fenix 6 Solar. Apart from that, the display is easy to read under all lighting conditions, but it appears a bit darker than the existing Instinct (the reason might be the solar module).

Power Manager – Garmin Instinct Solar Review

Instinct Solar’s power manager helps control energy consumption. There is an "battery saver" mode as well as several "power modes":

  • Battery saver mode (pictures below), when activated it uses a power saving display design, disconnects the phone and turns off the heart rate monitor and display illumination (fitness tracker, altimeter, barometer, compass, solar widget are still active). In this mode, the indicated 56 days are possible, but with 3 hours of sunshine with 50.000 lx per day, the running time is unlimited.
  • Power modes – Max. Battery: When enabled, the GPS receiver is in UltraTrac mode (GPS positions are determined less frequently), phone and connected accessories are disconnected, heart rate monitor and lighting are off, the map page is disabled. Now the specified 70 hours are possible (plus an additional 75 hours by solar).
  • Power modes – Jacket Mode: In Jacket Mode only the heart rate sensor is actually deactivated.

The battery saver mode can be customized just like the power modes, and additional power modes can be added and assigned to individual activities.

Screenshots battery saver mode

battery saver mode
display design in battery saver mode
fitness tracking is active
ABC sensors are active

Instinct Solar – Heart Rate Sensor

Another exciting topic – the wrist-based heart rate sensor!

As already mentioned, the Instinct Solar comes with a heart rate sensor of the latest generation, similar to the fenix 6 series. The figure below shows the design in comparison to the previous version (fenix 5X, Instinct 1st generation).

Garmin heart rate sensor generations (left to right): fenix 5X – Instinct – fenix 6 Pro Solar – Instinct Solar

The Instinct Solar – like all current Garmin Wearables – records the heart rate 24/7 and during training or activities.

The accuracy always leads to discussions. Numerous factors have an influence on this – basically there are four levels:

  • Your physiology
  • Heart rate sensor (hardware, software, algorithms)
  • Wearing position
  • Environment (especially the temperature)


The wearing position plays a particularly important role, as it is easy to influence: the sports watch should be firmly fastened a few centimeters above the wrist bone and should not slip or wobble during activity (small, lightweight watches such as the Instinct should have an advantage here).

What can be seen while running, hiking, cycling?

The Instinct Solar provides accurate readings (e.g. during activities such as running and mountain biking), however – similar to the fenix 6 – Garmin still has a wrist heart rate problem when using ski poles.

Illustration 1 + 2 – Mountainbike: All in all good results!

Illustration 3Hiking with ski poles (the activity type selected was "Hike"): The heart rate values of the Instinct Solar and the fenix 6 Pro Solar correspond very well overall (no reference device was used), but the many small peaks that catapult the user into a different heart rate zone for a short time are noticeable (and should not be).

Illustration 4Trail Running, parts with ski poles (activity types, for the fenix 6 "Run", for the Instinct "Trail Run"): Both watches fail completely.

For the activity "Run", this can be tolerated. Reason: The HR determination is based on the activity (and thus on the underlying algorithms), and for "normal" running, poles are not required.

Illustration 5Trail Running, parts with ski poles (activity types, nstinct Solar "Trail Run", Polar Grit X "Trail Running"): Same course as before, the Instinct is completely off, only at the sprint to the summit the heart rate seems to become realistic.

In the activity "Trail Run", however, these deviations must not occur, since trail runners in the mountains often use poles (apart from other activities with poles, especially in winter). There is no other choice than to continue using a heart rate chest strap.

However, the wrong readings do not always occur (check my fenix 6 review)!

Please Garmin – some R & D, other manufacturers can do it too!

1: Activity mountain biking – Casio G-Shock GBD-H1000 (green) vs. Garmin Instinct Solar (light blue)
2: Activity mountain biking – Garmin Instinct Solar (magenta) vs. Garmin fenix Pro Solar (light blue) vs. Garmin Edge 1030 Plus with HRM monitor (red)
3: Activity hiking – Garmin Instinct Solar (magenta) vs. Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar (light blue)
4: Activity trail running – Garmin Instinct Solar (magenta) vs. Garmin fenix 6 Pro Solar (light blue) vs. fenix 5X with HRM monitor (red)
4: Activity trail running – Garmin Instinct Solar (magenta) vs. Polar Grit X (light blue) vs. fenix 5X with HRM monitor (red)

Garmin Instinct Solar Review – Pulse Ox

Pulse oximetry – measuring the oxygen saturation of the blood – is one of the new Instinct Solar features.

The Instinct performs regular measurements. An essential function, continuous recording during sleep, can also be turned on/off using the appropriate widget.

The picture on the right from the Garmin Connect app shows pulse oximetry values.

What can be done with pulse oximetry?

Garmin writes that if you know your oxygen saturation level, it is easier to determine how your body is adapting to training and stress. This is especially true for sports at high altitudes.

Garmin Connect App – Pulse Ox

Instinct Solar Review – Body Battery

This is a "fuel gauge" that informs the user about the energy reserves available to him. The data is based on an evaluation of heart rate variability, stress levels, sleep quality and the activities performed – this shows that 24/7 wearing of the Instinct is necessary for a precise analysis.

The data is displayed in the body battery widget (which also displays stress values) and in the Connect App.

Body Battery – the battery is almost empty

GPS Accuracy

GPS reception is an often controversial topic … especially under the aspect of "accuracy". This depends mainly on the requirements of the users: A runner has different requirements than a mountain biker or hiker!

My findings (for mountain bike & hiking) The Instinct Solar provides track logs in the usual scope for wearables. I consider deviations of 10 m to 15 m compared to a reference device (currently the Garmin GPSMAP 66s) to be normal, especially in difficult GPS reception conditions!

You just have to be aware of the factors that influence GPS reception – and in my opinion, wearables are not very suitable for this purpose:

  • GPS chip & its firmware
  • Software algorithms by the GPS device manufacturer
  • Antenna design
  • The energy available to the GPS receiver
  • Alignment of the antenna (a very important factor, because it is worn on the arm, the antenna is usually directed sideways and does not point to the sky; in addition there are possible shadows caused by the body)
  • The GNSS used or the available satellites (number, geometry)
  • Morphology, environment (valleys, buildings, forest, …)

The Instinct Solar offers three GNSS options:

  • GPS
  • GPS + GLONASS
  • GPS + GALILEO

I usually test Garmin wearables in the setting "GPS + GLONASS". This is the Garmin default setting where I assume that the devices are optimized for this.

GPS accuracy in the mountains (hiking): GPSMAP 66s (reference system, blue), Instinct Solar (magenta), fenix 6 Pro Solar (light blue); GPS deviations less than 10 m compared to the GPSMAP
GPS accuracy in a forest (mountain bike): Edge 1030 Plus (blue), Instinct Solar (magenta), fenix 6 Pro Solar (light blue), deviations less than 10 m

Garmin Instinct Solar Review – Memory

Garmin gives the Instinct Solar only little memory. In the specifications, "memory/history" is claimed as 16 MB. A modest value, with Instinct first generation it happened that memory problems occurred while installing updates.

Garmin has partially solved this problem, on the Instinct itself you can now directly delete language files that are not needed.

Activities & Sensors

What you can do with the Instinct Solar is revealed by taking a look at the activity list – except for multi-sport activities such as triathlon, everything essential is included:

  • Hike
  • MTB
  • Trail Run
  • Navigate
  • Expedition
  • Track Me
  • Project Waypoint
  • Area Calculation
  • Run
  • Tradmill
  • Indoor Track
  • Walk
  • Climb
  • Bike
  • Bike Indoor
  • Swim
  • Open Water
  • Ski
  • Snowboard
  • XC Ski
  • Kayak
  • SUP
  • Row
  • Row Indoor
  • Strength
  • Cardio
  • Yoga
  • Crosstraining
  • Stair Stepper
  • Floor Climb
  • Tactical
  • Boat
  • Fish
  • Hunt
  • Other

The Instinct Solar allows the connection of the following sensors and devices, the selection should be sufficient for most users:

  • Heart rate monitor (ANT+, Bluetooth)
  • Speed/Cadence (ANT+, Bluetooth)
  • Foot Pod
  • VIRB action cam
  • Tempe (temperature)
  • inReach

Instinct Solar – Other Functions – Courses

From the many other functions I pick out a few that should be of special interest for some users.

Smartphone connectivity – courses

The Instinct Solar is compatible with the Garmin Connect app and the Garmin Explore app (at the time of testing the Instinct Solar was not yet available in the Explore app, but this should follow soon).

The Connect App – an indispensable, extremely feature-rich tool – allows the comfortable transfer of courses from the smartphone to the Instinct, but only if mobile network is available. Now the Explore App comes into play, an app which takes some time getting used to. With Explore you can exchange data such as waypoints, tracks, routes & activities with the Instinct Solar, even offline or with a limited mobile connection.

Navigation with courses

Navigating with course is done with the help of a map page that shows the course as a breadcrumb trail (see images below). Turning hints and warnings when deviating from the course make navigation easier, accompanied by sound and vibration (but too quiet and too weak).

All in all this kind of navigation works very well, although it doesn’t come close to the navigation experience with wearables like the fenix 6X Pro.

Screenshots – Course navigation

75 m to the next turn
91 m to the next left turn
wrong direction
back to the course
  • Vastly extended battery life through solar charging
  • Rugged GPS watch is water-rated to 100 meters and constructed to U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock and water resistance
  • Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • Track your activities for running, biking, swimming, strength and more
  • Help understand your health and wellness better with all-day health monitoring and Pulse Ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition)
  • Monitor how your body uses energy by tracking heart rate, stress and sleep estimates with Body Battery energy monitoring
(* = affiliate link / image source: Amazon partner program)
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Garmin Instinct Solar Review – Conclusion

The Instinct Solar Garmin is another interesting GPS smartwatch for a variety of activities. I especially like the significantly improved battery life compared to the existing Instinct, which can be further increased by the effective solar panel!

In addition, there is the complete set of integrated sensors as well as a convincing navigation with courses – a function that is further enhanced by importing courses from a smartphone.

In the sum of its features, the Garmin Instinct Solar is not only a great overall package for hiking and other outdoor activities, but also pretty much unrivalled on the market. The Casio GBD-H1000, which I recently tested, can’t compete with the Instinct Solar in any way, especially when it comes to features. And other outdoor watches with solar are only available from Garmin in the form of the fenix 6 series. But the fenix 6 plays in a different price league. Apart from that, as my first tests show, the fenix 6 solar module seems to be far less effective than the Instinct Solar!

What would be the best alternative to the Instinct Solar? In my opinion, the first generation Instinct, whose street price is now extremely attractive – you can quickly save some bucks.

Garmin Instinct Solar Review – Pro

  • Rugged & waterproof
  • Small & light
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Great battery life
  • Effective solar technology
  • Compass, barometric altimeter
  • Range of functions
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible to Garmin Connect app & Garmin Explore app

Garmin Instinct Solar Review – Contra

  • Design not for everyone
  • Small display
  • Less memory
  • Heart rate accuracy for certain activities
  • Vastly extended battery life through solar charging
  • Rugged GPS watch is water-rated to 100 meters and constructed to U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock and water resistance
  • Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
  • Track your activities for running, biking, swimming, strength and more
  • Help understand your health and wellness better with all-day health monitoring and Pulse Ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition)
  • Monitor how your body uses energy by tracking heart rate, stress and sleep estimates with Body Battery energy monitoring
(* = affiliate link / image source: Amazon partner program)
×
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Note: The articles may contain affiliate links. If you buy through these links I will receive a commission; thus you support the continuation of this website. There are no additional costs for you. It is up to you where and when you buy a product. I do not receive any information about the buyer.

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